Floral surprises on Africa’s southern tip

South Africa is recognised as one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Although probably best known for Kruger National Park and its enviable populations of megafauna such as rhinos, elephants, giraffes and lions, South Africa has even more to offer thanks to its incredible diversity of landscapes.

One of its most remarkable – and best kept – secrets is the incredible diversity of plant species found in the Cape Floral Kingdom (or the Cape Floristic Region) on the country’s Western Cape.

One of only six floral kingdoms in the world and unique to this small area, the region supports over 9,000 plant species, 70% of which are found nowhere else on the planet. These include exquisite species such as the king protea (South Africa’s national flower) and the exotic pincushion.

However, many of the critical habitats in the Cape Floral Kingdom (including the lowland fynbos and renosterveld habitats) are severely threatened by human development pressures on land. Ploughing of land for agriculture (arable, dairy farms) and conversion for viniculture and other industries endanger the region’s unique plants and the animals that rely on them.

South Africa facts
Country in Africa

Size (land & water):

1,219,090 km²

Population (2016 est.):

54,300,704

GDP per capita (2016 est.):

US$13,500

South Africa is bordered by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and surrounds Lesotho. Its southern tip is also where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet.

20,000

plant species are found in South Africa – an astonishing 10% of all plants found on Earth.

70%

of the Cape Floral Kingdom’s 9,600 plants are found nowhere else on Earth.

Our work to protect South Africa’s biodiversity

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been working in South Africa since the very early days of our history and we were instrumental in the establishment of Kruger National Park, among many other successes.

More recently, however, we began working to conserve South Africa’s extraordinary Cape Floral Kingdom in 1999 when a beautiful fynbos flower farm close to Africa’s southernmost tip was threatened with conversion to vineyards. With support from Halcyon Land & Sea, we purchased the farm and soon afterwards transferred this into local ownership, establishing Flower Valley Conservation Trust to manage the area.

What started out as a small project to protect a 5.4 km2 property has today blossomed (forgive the pun) into a pioneering programme of work that extends across the Cape Floral Kingdom.

The NGO we helped to establish, Flower Valley Conservation Trust, not only manages its estate carefully to preserve the diversity of the area but also supports local fynbos flower harvesters to ensure that people can earn a living, sustainably. The pre-school at Flower Valley, set up in 1999 to provide a safe learning environment for the children of harvesters, is now more than 18 years old, and continues to connect people to nature from a young age.

Today, we provide ongoing support to Flower Valley Conservation Trust and another local partner –Overberg Lowlands Conservation Trust – to help them protect South Africa’s unique fynbos and renosterveld habitats.